Letter from Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's
Chief Inspector, Ofsted, dated 8 February 2011|
EDUCATION COMMITTEE HEARING, THE ROLE AND
PERFORMANCE OF OFSTED,
12 JANUARY 2011
I was pleased to have the opportunity to appear before
the Committee recently to give evidence as part of the inquiry
into Ofsted's role and performance. This scrutiny is a key accountability
mechanism for Ofsted, and I welcome the chance to respond to questions
and present our evidence.
During the proceedings you asked about Finland's
system of accountability for schools. I attach a briefing note
we have prepared, and I hope you find the information useful.
Factors that have been identified as contributing
to Finland's successful educational outcomes also inform its system
of accountability. These include Finland's much smaller and less
culturally diverse population: at five million, it is considerably
smaller than England's school population. The teaching profession
has high status and commands respect from parents, pupils and
society more widely. The career of teaching is sought after with
only about 10% of applicants being successful in gaining places
to train as a teacher. Teachers are well qualified, generally
studying for five years to gain Masters degrees.
Prior to the 1990s, school inspections were undertaken
by the provincial governments in Finland. In the 1990s a decentralised
approach was encouraged where standards set out nationally became
more open to local flexibility. At the same time nationally administered
school inspections ceased. However, at a regional level the state
provincial offices conduct, under the supervision of the Ministry
of Education, annual evaluations of the availability and quality
of basic educational services.
In 1999, the Finnish government made evaluation statutory
in all sectors of education. This obliged providers to evaluate
the effectiveness of the education they offer and to participate
in external evaluations of its activities. However, there is no
detailed national prescription of how self-evaluation should be
Working as an expert network, the Finnish Education
Evaluation Council was established in 2003 to contribute to the
development of national external evaluations. Its remit covers
all phases of education except for higher education. The Education
Evaluation Council is made up of providers, educational institutes,
educational administration, teacher and student organisations,
and stakeholder groups. It also includes experts in educational
evaluation and evaluation research. One of the Council's roles
is to give support to providers in educational evaluation.
The tasks of the Education Evaluation Council are
- assist the Ministry of Education and to support
education providers in matters concerning educational evaluation;
- plan for external educational evaluation in accordance
with the guidelines and financial resources set by the Ministry
of Education; and
- formulate proposals for the development of educational
evaluation and to promote educational evaluation research and
Key principles underpinning the evaluation work of
the Council include the importance of an independent body overseeing
national evaluation and ensuring that:
- the people with the right expertise undertake
- evaluations are aligned to work undertaken by
other evaluation bodies in order to minimise duplication;
- school or provider self-evaluation is incorporated
into national evaluations; and
- evaluation is developmental and promotes improvement.
The types of evaluation administered by the Education
Evaluation Council include:
- Evaluation of learning outcomes.
There are no universal national assessment tests in Finland except
for the matriculation examinations at the end of upper secondary
education. However, the Council administers national subject assessments
on a sampling basis. The sample is chosen to be representative
of providers and learners. If selected, schools and providers
are obliged to take part. These assessments focus on previously
publicised themes which have been identified nationally. The assessments
are marked by teachers, although a sample is marked externally
for quality assurance purposes. Recent themes have included a
longitudinal assessment of mathematics, mother tongue and literature.
Following the assessments, a national report is published, and
individual schools are sent their own results. However, no national
ranking is produced and schools are not normally publically identified.
- System evaluation.
This is targeted at an entire educational sector, such as basic
education or a particular form of provider. Recent focus has included
topics such as "Regional effectiveness and the role of education"
and "Young people's selection and choices for vocational
education, academic performance and dropping out".
- Situation evaluation.
This provides information about the functioning of the whole or
part of the education system. It can also focus on ongoing education
policy and its implementation. Recent evaluation themes have included
"The state of basic education" and "Teachers qualification
in Swedish speaking education".
- Thematic evaluation.
This type of evaluation considers a particular aspect, such as
a specific school subject or curricular content area. This includes
topics such as "Basic education in the arts" and "Learning
in the workplace".